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Abstract

The Pinelands National Reserve and UNESCO Biosphere encompass a large portion of southern New Jersey's Pine Barrens. Within the core preservation zone of these Reserves lies the Warren Grove Weapons Range, a military installation where exercises during the past 50 years have devastated portions of the indigenous pygmy pine-oak forest. In 1987, restoration efforts were initiated to identify materials and techniques that promote a diverse and productive native plant community atop drastically disturbed portions of the range. We used trial plantings to examine fertilizer and sewage compost fertility amendments, the effect of different native plant mixtures (including the dwarfed race of pitch pine, Pinus rigida), the influence of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus tinctorius on the growth of pines and associated species, and mulch applications to conserve moisture and add organic matter. Following two growing seasons, test plantings exhibited 25% of the vegetation production found in the surrounding pine-oak community, 50% canopy closure, and levels of diversity comparable to the reference site. Maximum biomass and cover were achieved following the application of 16 Mg/ha compost and the establishment of pitch pine seedlings. Pitch pine was the dominant species in all plots where it was planted, with herbaceous species comprising the balance of the developing vegetation. Amendments of seeded grasses, P. tinctorius, and mulch influenced species composition but failed to enhance total plant production. We recommend restoring drastically disturbed sites in the pine plains with cultural input of compost to the spoils and planting of pitch pines and other woody species to accelerate the structural blending of reforested sites with the surrounding native vegetation.